Some things are worth waiting for

First off, my apologies for my long absence. After a number of life-changing events,  I believe I have returned to the place where I may resume my humble addition to the gardening world.

In my absense, I find the world of gardening has not slowed down at all and there are a great number of exciting new plants that I will want to share with you here in my blog. Of course, there are new conifers to admire and covet, as well as further additions to the hardy Jack Frost® and Pacific Rim® maples to share.

This post, I find that I am driven to present a new dwarf Hinoki Cypress that was first introduced by my friends at Iseli Nursery a few years ago. I call it “new” since it is still relatively unknown and is certainly worthy of greater attention.

Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Thoweil'
Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Thoweil’

Many gardeners are familiar with the standard Hinoki Cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa) for its rich green color and somewhat feathery or lacy foliage. It can be grown as a stately single specimen or utilized in pairs or groups for a formal garden appeal. This Japanese forest tree became popular in western gardens well over one hundred years ago and has been the parent to thousands of dwarf, colorful and very unique new cultivars. Some of my very favorite dwarf conifers have their parentage in Chamaecyparis obtusa and were selected as unusual seedling offspring or witch’s broom mutations and then propagated, creating generations of identical clones with the special characteristics of their unique parents.

Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Thoweil’ was named by the late Ed Rezek, an east coast conifer aficionado, in honor of two Dutch plants-men, Thom Delange and Weil Linnsen, hence, “ThoWeil.”

With so many dwarf and unusual cultivars of Hinoki Cypress already in cultivation and in the trade, one may wonder why we would need another variation. This, of course, is a very valid point and something the creative minds at Iseli are always considering when they choose to produce a new plant. “What makes this one different or better than the many other selections already on the market?”

In the case of ‘Thoweil’, it fulfills a need in today’s gardens where other conifers simply do not. Many people love the look—the stately upright habit—of the standard Hinoki Cypress. It is a beautiful tree. These days, most of us simply do not have the room in our gardens to enjoy it in its peak of beauty, nor do we tend to have ancestors living in our same estate for generations to enjoy the trees that we plant (and certainly few have any idea what trees their great-grand parents may have planted – or even where they may have lived).

With ‘Thoweil’ and its slow, yet vigorous growth rate, not only may we enjoy a beautiful garden tree in our own lifetime, but we may enjoy the fact that it is scaled perfectly in our smaller, 21st century gardens. But that’s not all! ‘Thoweil’ has a growth habit that can be encouraged to grow as either a unique sculptural form, or as a formal form, with just a little directional pruning of branches when the tree is young.

Its rich, dark green, small, densely formed foliage fills out its branches covering the plant and filling in its space. Some branches may be allowed to grow outward in naturally erratic directions to bring the overall tree into a natural sculptural form. If desired, the erratic branches may be trimmed to encourage the tree into a narrow form. Either way, the tree is also a slow enough grower, that it could even be enjoyed on the deck or patio for many years in a decorative container.

At first look, the prospective gardener may think this is just another Hinoki, but when one looks beyond a first glance, one may see the beauty and real treasure that ‘Thoweil’ could be in today’s gardens.

Ed-
Conifer Lover

Advertisements

Looking for something Primo!

There is something very exciting about this spring. I’m looking forward to seeing my favorite garden centers fill up with all kinds of fresh new plants. From colorful annuals for some of the patio pots to colorful conifers for around the overall landscape and for use in patio containers.

Thuja-occidentalis-Primo-IslPrim
Primo™ Arborvitae is an exciting new dwarf conifer.

You know I love the miniature and dwarf conifers and it’s always a thrill to discover what new items are arriving at the local garden center. One plant on my list is a very new introduction to the nursery trade. Some lucky folks were able to pre-order early release plants through membership in the American Conifer Society.

Thuja-occidentalis-Primo-IslPrim-tall
A small amount of pruning can encourage Primo™ to grow into a very slender form.

The society annually selects a couple of conifers as their Collector’s Conifers of the Year and Thuja occidentalis Primo (‘IslPrim’) was one selected for 2017. I don’t expect to find this “primo” little plant yet, but I am certainly going to keep my eyes open at every garden center I visit!

Primo originated out of a batch of Thuja occidentalis ‘Zmatlik’ seedlings. ‘Zmatlik’ has dense, unusually coarse textured foliage on a narrow, medium-fast growing tree. It is very useful as a garden screen and is hardy into Zone 3! Primo was selected out of thousands of seedlings due to its very coarse and curious foliage. Over the years of pre-release observation, it was noted that with a small amount of pruning, Primo could be very easily maintained as a narrow, small spire. When left to grow naturally, each individual plant will grow very slowly into its own sculptural form.

I am so excited about this new introduction—even if I need to wait another year, this cool little conifer will be worth the wait, and I will very likely have just the right place prepared for it to be planted.

Good hunting (conifers)!

Ed-
Conifer Lover

Colorful conifers for good health and well-being

We have just recently returned to Pacific Standard Time with our clocks falling back an hour, and even though I have allegedly gained an hour of sleep, I am already feeling the effect of shorter daylight hours. I love the summer when the sun usually wakes me up around 5:30am and finally puts me to rest after 9:30pm. Those long, bright days are truly energizing. Our recent Fall Back, hit me like a ton of topsoil and I’ve been dragging through the past couple of days.

Then, today it hit me—it’s time to start making plans for holiday decorating!

I love to make wreaths, and my wife loves hanging them both indoors and out! We recently made some major progress in organizing our garage which resulted in my having a place for my, “You’re not going to make a mess in my house” projects like holiday wreath making, candle making, whittling and carving. That is perfectly okay with me, now that I have a nice warm space to work on my projects.

wreath
Here is one wreath I crafted in 2015. I am so looking forward to getting started this season!

One of my first projects will certainly be making wreaths for the holiday season. Conifers are perfect for this craft because of their very wide-ranging assortment of foliage colors, textures, and even their scents. One of the comments I hear when folks visit during the holidays is how fresh and “Christmasy” the house smells. I’m certain that conifers play a big role in those comments (as well as my wife’s “Swill” she has warming on the stove through the holidays).

I love to create my wreaths with an assortment of conifer foliage. I will often begin with something simple like our native, dark green, Pseudotsuga menziesii (Douglas Fir) or the glossy green sprays of Thuja plicata (Western Red Cedar) or Calocedrus decurrens (Incense Cedar). As I work my way around the wreath, the real fun begins as I begin to include other complimentary and/or contrasting color elements.

wreathfoliage
Just a small sample of some of the foliage I prepared for my wreath-making in 2015. Now that I’ll have a larger workspace, I hope to make several new wreaths this holiday season!

For bright powder blue color, I love to use Cupressus glabra ‘Blue Pyramid’ or a splash of Picea pungens ‘Hoopsi’ . When I want to add a flash of bright yellow, I love to use Cupressus glabra ‘Aurea’, Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Nana Lutea’ or C. pisifera ‘Golden Mop’. Of course each of these selections add their own unique texture and aromatic presence to the piece. Variegated conifers such as Juniperus chinensis ‘Torulosa Variegata’ or C. ob.‘Snowkist’ add a delightful zing as well. For a softer texture, Pinus strobus ‘Macopin’, P. s. ‘Louie’ and the variegated Pinus parviflora ‘Ogon Janome’ are delightful choices.

If you have never made your own wreath before, I want to encourage you to take the time. It is a very fun and relaxing (even meditative) project that yields tons of smiles and happiness in those who visit. I always make several and give a few away to neighbors and loved ones. It’s always fun to spread the cheer!

Yes, now that I have fresh new wreath-making ideas flowing, my back seems to hurt a little less and I seem to have a spring to my step that has been missing for several days. Thanks to the therapeutic power of conifers!

Ed-
Conifer Lover

Slow and steady as she goes

This summer has been one of the most consistently wonderful weather-wise in my memory. I do have faint memories of when I was a young fella, swimming almost daily in our neighbor’s pool from at least early July through the Labor Day weekend – and that was way back in the early 1960s. I didn’t care much for the cold water of an unheated pool, so at least one summer, way back when, must have been similar to this year with day after day of sunny and warm weather.

Summer-Garden-82016_5008
Even a small garden space has room for a path through beds filled with dwarf conifers and other exciting plants.

Our spring began on time this year and we have enjoyed bumper crops in our raised bed vegetable garden. I’ll even be harvesting a water melon soon (which is very rare in this area – at least for me)! With great crops of peas, beans, cucumbers, lettuce, basil and tomatoes, we have enjoyed heart-healthy eating all summer.

Our deck is alive with over 30 dwarf conifer and flower-filled containers. These warm summer evenings have been enjoyed snuggled with my beloved wife as we have listened to frogs, crickets and the occasional coyote serenade the otherwise quiet evenings, gazing at the stars or reading our books.

Summer-Garden-82016_6057
A beautiful way to fill a corner with tons of color and excitement!

New construction of the larger garden has been very slow this season and I have achieved far less than I had hoped early on. But, life happens and I have found it to be much less stressful to go with the flow of what life presents to you rather than insist on being the one in control. Steadily working through the challenges as they arise, we have made some strides in achieving our garden transforming goals. Not rushing into some of my landscape projects has allowed me to get to know the property a little more and I have made adjustments to my original plans.

Summer-Garden-82016_5588
Wouldn’t this be a great view right off your back patio or deck? Who needs lawn grass? It’s just something you have to mow and water all summer long!

In the meantime, we have enjoyed visiting other gardens and absorbed all kinds of ideas and inspiration to apply to our new garden space. Please enjoy these inspirational photos from the display gardens at Iseli Nursery!

Ed-
Conifer Lover

A surprise encounter

Since moving into our new neighborhood, my wife and I have enjoyed taking regular walks. Not only is the activity very heart-healthy (and insisted upon by my wife) but it is actually quite enjoyable. Our neighborhood includes two city parks within its borders and is tucked away between two major creeks that feed the local river.

StageOnePruning
I’ll bet this was a cute little tree, 27 years ago when the house was built. The big tree was planted in the wrong place. At over 20 feet tall and 12 feet wide, it was simply planted too close to the sidewalk.

Since moving here, I have noticed that most folks walking through the neighborhood tend to walk out in the street, which is fine since there isn’t a lot of traffic, but being a safety conscious citizen, I have always believed the miles of sidewalks installed in our city were put in place for a reason. Now that I am an avid pedestrian in our neighborhood, I understand why so many folks prefer the street: Poor landscape design planning and/or maintenance.

Our neighborhood is about 30 years old, so I suspect that most of the landscapes are close to that age here as well. That means all those nice little plants that looked so cute in the front yard, along the sidewalk, are largely overgrown and many of them obstruct the way for comfortable pedestrian travel. You might imagine my narrative (which my wife patiently endured) as we walked those first view adventures through the neighborhood, was filled with my expert opinion regarding well-designed landscaping and the intelligent use of dwarf conifers.

Much to my surprise and frustration, on the return trip to our home, I discovered that the large Colorado Blue Spruce planted in the front corner of our property was partially obscuring our freedom to pass by on the sidewalk. I couldn’t help but to think of several, slower growing alternatives that would have been far greater choices to plant in this location (see below*).

The following day, I gathered my three-legged orchard ladder and a collection of pruning tools; my hand pruners held at my hip by a holster on my belt, my large loppers, two sizes of pruning saws and my electric chainsaw on a stick (which has proved to be one of the handiest tools I have ever used) and I made my way out to the large tree.

Ordinarily, I would shudder at the thought of disfiguring a beautiful conifer in this fashion…

Looking the tree over, I could see that the previous caregiver of the landscape had been shearing the sidewalk side of this tree for a number of years as it was a very compact congestion of branches and foliage from  ground level to just above my head. As I circled the tree, its natural, more open habit was evident, and it was in this loose branching that I made my approach to begin the job of limbing the tree up above my head, all around its trunk. Ordinarily, I would shudder at the thought of disfiguring a beautiful conifer in this fashion, but frankly, it is just the first step in the eventual total removal of the tree that is overgrown for the space in which it was planted.

Several hours later, I stood in the street, sweat pouring down my face, needles, pitch and other tree debris decorating my work clothes as I inspected the job I had just completed. I noticed a neighbor, walking his three dogs, strolling on the sidewalk in my direction. I became pleased with myself that I had done the good deed of clearing the way for them so that they could walk, safely, and without obstruction on the sidewalk in front of my house.

I walked closer to my front yard, which was now 80% covered with piles of the branches that I had removed from the tree, thinking that the fun part of my job was over. I was looking for my large insulated bottle of iced tea and was planning to sit on the front steps and rest. As I sat, looking through the piles of branches and seeing the opened up front yard, I began to imagine the transformation that would take place. I visualized widening and lengthening the two planting beds that now exist.

Imagining the expanded planting space, my mind became occupied with the incredibly large number of choices available to me in designing this new front yard space. I became excited at the thought of dusting off the rototiller to begin turning old lawn grass into lush mounds of soil for planting all kinds of exciting colorful conifers…

But first, I need to properly dispose of these huge piles of spruce branches…

Ed-
Conifer Lover

PS. *Here are some better choices for this same garden space. All of these conifers are slower growing and/or have a smaller footprint than the seedling spruce I will be replacing. Which would be your choice for this prime corner spot in the front garden? Let me know in the comments.